34 – February 3
“Today I know that I cannot control the ocean tides. I can only go with the flow.”—Marie Stilkind
When we are in the midst of our hurly-burly lives, we cannot always see where the threads of our days have taken us, or where we stand in the warp and woof of time. It is hard to see the overall design because our focus is so narrow—we’re looking at today, tomorrow, next week, last week. We don’t spend much time in review to see how all the threads intertwined to create the present moment.
I started out with the burning desire to act, and trod many stages in sixteen years of performances. Then I became a bookkeeper!? It seemed an odd choice; a complete departure from all I had ever known or wanted. For twelve years, bookkeeping and business management held my attention and passion.
The catalyst that brought the two halves of my life together looked, at first, like a disaster. My biggest account, worth $300,000 per year, fired me. But what looks like bad news isn’t always bad news. The struggle that I underwent to solve my financial stress made me strong and taught me things I would never have known any other way. And so when, a year later, the big recession of the late 1980s hit California, I was prepared with tools to help others weather financial storms.
My clients knew I had had problems—I talked about them to anyone who’d listen—and that I’d solved them. Suddenly, everyone was taking me to lunch and asking how I handled creditors, how I renegotiated leases, how I made deals and closed sales. When three people in the same week told me I should teach a class, the Financial Stress Reduction Workshop was born.
Suddenly, my whole life made sense. Sixteen years of performing skills coupled with twelve years of financial management skills gave me all the tools I needed to teach a financial class that was practical yet entertaining. I couldn’t see the design of the tapestry before that defining moment. But then I knew that my whole life, I had been training for this purpose. Even when I thought I was off the path, I was on the path. All my mistakes, upsets, disasters were material to share with my clients: Were they broke, stressed out, in debt, scared? I had been there. Abused? Alcoholic? I had been there, too.
Yes, I make money—I teach making money. But the real payday for me is when one of my clients turns their money and life around, when they close a deal they didn’t think they could get, when they find the job that makes their soul sing—and pays them well, too! With tears in their eyes, they thank me for it. And with tears in mine, I thank God.
What glories have the disasters of your life brought you?
“Every day, I follow my life’s design to my heart’s desire.”
We humans tend to think that everything that happens is about us. Because we’re the star of our movie, right? But sometimes, things happen that are about one of the other 7 billion people on the planet, and we are put in someone else’s path in order to help them.
It was a bright summer day, and I was zipping down Kenter Street, off to an appointment. Everyone zips down Kenter—it’s a wide residential street, and in the many years I’ve been living in this area, never have I seen a policeman. Until now. Uh, oh. Well, I admit it, I was zipping along a bit too fast, and the slow car in front of me just wasn’t pulling over fast enough, so I zipped around him over the double yellow lines…oops.
Saw the flashing lights on the police car behind me right away, so I turned into a side street and parked. I got my driver’s license, registration and insurance card ready, because I knew the drill. Experienced, you see?
The police officer walked up to my window, smiled at me, and asked if I knew how fast I was going.
“Um, fast?” I smiled back sheepishly.
“You were going 50,” he said. “Do you know what the speed limit is?”
“Uh…slow?” The officer wasn’t amused.
He said, “30.” We both knew I was toast.
He next explained that I also zipped over the double yellow lines, which is a very big no-no. Oh, dear. Burnt toast.
The officer said he was going to write me a ticket and asked for my documents. I said, “I understand” and gave him what he needed. As he walked away to write it up, I shrugged mentally, and decided I wasn’t going to let this glitch in my day ruin my day. I played the Glad Game. I know drive fast, more often than I should, and have to pay the piper for that occasionally, so why be angry or upset about it? The officer is just doing his job, and he’s being nice and friendly doing it, so okay. And it’s a beautiful day, I have plenty of time to get where I’m going, I’m going to have a great lunch with a good friend, and so on.
He walked back, ticket in hand, and told me that he was going to give me a break on the speeding and only wrote me a ticket for the double yellow line infraction. I knew that saved me a bundle, so I thanked him very much! Then, in a flash of intuition, or just because I instinctively wanted to return good for good, I offered him a copy of The Wealthy Spirit that was sitting on the seat beside me. (It was after I had received the ticket, so couldn’t be considered a bribe, just a thank you.) He was very sweet and thanked me and asked me to sign it for him, which I was happy to do. We shook hands, smiled and wished each other a pleasant day.
As I turned my car around and started to drive past him, he called out for me to stop for a moment. I pulled my car up to his and rolled down my window. “What is it?” I asked.
With a wondering look on his face, he held up my book and said, “I’ve been looking for a book like this for four months. I even went to the bookstore yesterday, looking for a book on finance, but didn’t see anything I wanted and left empty-handed. This is exactly the book I’ve been searching for to help me work on my finances. Thank you so much!”
Lemonade. I’ve never felt quite so good after getting a ticket.
There are other people on the planet. Everything that happens isn’t about you. Sometimes you’ve just been thrown on the deck in order to save another sailor from drowning. This incident was clearly both: He needed my book, and I needed his reminder to drive more safely. If we look for the mutual benefits we provide each other in every transaction, we can find them. The master design of life works beautifully.*